How do you go about planning to hike the Appalachian Trail?
In my experience DON’T …….. Okay you have to do a bit
when I came out to hike the PCT , I came out with reams of paper spread sheets that I promptly put into the bin after the first week
So in No Particular Order
What will the weather be like?
Bad weather can completely ruin a long-distance walk – not to mention making it more dangerous – so make sure you know what the local weather conditions should be for the time of year, and prepare yourself accordingly
What maps and guidebooks do I need?
Maps are essential (as is a compass), There are several official guides that AT hikers take , Some are broken down and sent up the trail tso your not carrying the whole guide , Also electronic apps for smart phones are widely used
What distances do I need to walk, and over what terrain?
So what mileage can you do? Are you a seasoned hiker or green, The AT unlike the Pct. has straight ups rather than switchbacks, and so if you cruised doing 25s on the Pct. you may struggle to do 20’s
Below are three useful planners
With all these plans they ease you in gently so you get your hiking legs slowly and so don’t burn out by week 1 ,
Be flexible when using these plans ,
if you get to camp early, THEN STOP !!
There is an urge to go on DON’T
Make camp let your body rest
What about rest days?
Only you can know your limits, but it’s wise to build in too many rest days rather than too few. Rest days out in the countryside are always rewarding, but having to walk when you’re exhausted is another matter altogether.
Have I got the right equipment?
There are so many pages and blogs of what Kit to take , should I be Ultra-Light .
I wouldn’t advise being ultra-light unless you are a seasoned hiker, Otherwise this can be worse than being too heavy.
You want to be comfortable, warm and well fed not cold, miserable and hungry
but what you take is a personnel thing. The At is a long way so you will have plenty of time to try kit swap out what doesn’t work or buy what works well .
The AT goes through Many towns unlike the PCT and so there is no need to carry more than five days of food and the faster you hike this can drop to four days
But like many trails , your main concern will be water .
I will do a rough plan
concentrating on the first 2 weeks , and resupply, Normally by the second week you are in your stride(well almost) you know what you’re eating and know what mileage you are comfortable with .
I also with do a spread sheet with the towns, and resupply points.
as in coming from the UK, I like to use a bounce box so I will then guesstimate where I need to send that too,
I normally send it to a point around the 100 mile mark, this way I can swap any kit shake down etc. and too a Post office , that way if I don’t need it I’m not paying again . My next bounce point will be when I guesstimate my shoes will die say around mile 600/700…
I then research places where I may need to send food drops, although I believe the AT isn’t bad
So that’s my Draft plan,
where am I flying too?
The airport is normally fairly easy ,followed by where am I flying home from.
Then its guess the trip duration ,Always better to allow more time as then you can change your flight .
Where am I staying?
Hotel, Hotel, Trail Angel ,I like to unwind after my flight, resupply, chill, recheck my gear, Buy any last minute items, organize my Phone sim,
How do I get to the Trail?
is there a shuttle , bus train ?
What shall I do in an emergency?
Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but it’s essential to have a plan in case of emergency. Do you have a mobile phone that works on the trail? If so, do you have the relevant number for the emergency services? It’s also important to leave your itinerary with someone you know, or the local park authorities, so they can track you down if you don’t check in on your return. Other things to take are an emergency bivvy bag, a whistle and a basic medical kit.
The best way to become a good walker is to go out there and walk.
There’s no better way to learn about what to do than by actually doing it.